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The Problem With Korea (Both of Them)
-By Caleb Jones
Worse, the events of the last week have shown that Seoul could be vaporized by North Korea even if South Korea does nothing wrong. A hotheaded neocon US President like Trump could easily provoke Kim Jong Un into launching an attack on South Korea that would cost the lives of tens of thousands.
This is made more interesting (or tragic, based on your point of view) in that North Korea really can’t retaliate against the USA if Trump rattles his saber; they can only retaliate against regional nations like South Korea and Japan. North Korea doesn’t have any missiles that can hit the US from across the Pacific Ocean (at least at the moment). It’s true they have some submarines, but they’re old, pussy submarines, none of which can fire nukes, and only a handful of which can fire ballistic missiles. Maybe. So the absolute worst-case scenario for Americans is that maybe a North Korean sub gets past our Pacific naval security net and maybe a few non-nuclear missiles get lobbed into Los Angeles without accidentally detonating first. But that’s about it.
This means that South Korea is essentially at the mercy of the US President. One misstep in American foreign policy can get thousands of innocent South Koreans killed.
This is why South Korea was never on my possible move-to list.
What To Do About North Korea
So, if antagonizing North Korea is reckless and stupid and not the answer, what can we do about them?
Well, the left-wing answer, sanctions, aren’t going to work. History clearly shows that psychotic dictators don’t care if you enact sanctions against their country. They’ll still be just fine with their limos and palaces while their people starve. They don’t care.
Bullying is clearly not going to work. Staying very strong is always a good idea, but actively antagonizing a psychotic dictator with his button on thousands of missiles, including nukes, is not a smart move.
Bribing them isn’t going to work. We tried that. Back in the 90’s, the sociopathic Bill Clinton took $4 billion of your tax dollars and gave it to North Korea in exchange for a promise to not develop nukes. Just as you’d expect, North Korea took the money, laughed at us, and developed nukes anyway. Thanks, Bill. (What a great president he was!)
Diplomatic pressure against North Korea isn’t going to work. Again, they don’t care.
Diplomatic pressure on China might help a little. North Korea needs China, so China is the only entity that can slap Kim Jong Un around a little bit.
The problem is that China likes North Korea just the way it is. It’s a buffer state between them and the “Western” capitalistic Asian countries like South Korea and Japan. China likes watching the West sweat a little by having North Korea around. A reunified Korea literally on China’s border is the last thing China wants. North Korea is basically a rabid, foaming, barking pit bull chained up in front of China’s house; it’s a little extra protection for them.
So China will gently yank on North Korea’s leash a little bit now and again, but they’re not going to actually do anything to solve the overall problem.
Cyber warfare is another option that might help a little. Our government has hinted that our cyber warfare efforts have, perhaps, caused missile launch malfunctions with North Korea. This is a very good thing and we need to keep it up, but my understanding is that North Korea has hundreds of thousands of missiles. If they decide to launch them, our cyber warfare won’t stop them all; just a percentage of them.
So what do we do?
All the options are bad, but the least-bad option was one suggested by the Heritage Foundation a very long time ago. That is, let Japan develop their own nukes. Right now, Japan is prohibited from developing nuclear weapons, with the promise that we in the US will use our nukes to defend Japan.
This is, of course, insane. The defense of Japan is Japan’s problem, not our problem. In a very real way, North Korea is South Korea and Japan’s problem, not our problem. We should not be the world’s policeman; not with our debt and other huge domestic economic problems.
Japan is a wealthy, high-tech nation. Just change the treaties to allow them to develop their own nukes, and let them know that they need to defend themselves from now on. Hell, we can even sell them nukes and all the relevant nuke tech and make some money on the deal. Once Japan has some nice, scary nukes, North Korea is going to be very nervous about launching any missiles at anyone, for any reason.
To be clear, there are lots of problems with this plan. I didn’t say it was a good plan; there are no good plans when it comes to North Korea. I said it was the least-bad plan available to us, because it is. Let Japan become its own nuclear power in the region, and let them take dick with North Korea. American taxpayers should not be forced at gunpoint to give money to defend wealthy Japanese and South Koreans.
This will never happen, of course. Bush-Obamaism, of which Trump is clearly a follower, is committed to being the world’s incompetent, bankrupt policeman. So, the USA will continue to spend billions of your tax dollars to antagonize a psycho with nukes, and put thousands (if not millions) of lives at risk.
Oh well. I tried.
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Tony 2017-04-19 17:39:06
Giving Japan nukes won't change anything. Like you said, they don't care if millions of their citizens die, either of starvation or nuclear weapons. What they care about is losing their power, or dying themselves. The West could do that with no problem without nukes (as long as China didn't get involved). You basically have two solutions. One is to slowly, over the course of a couple hundred years, raise the standards of what we find unacceptable in North Korea until we get to the point where they're at least functional. So for example right now Trump goes to Xi Jinping and says "Look, we know you have a complicated relationship with North Korea, but we just can't have them sending generations of people to concentration camps for one family member saying something the Kim family doesn't like. If you don't get them to stop doing that we'll have no choice but to liberate the camps ourselves." The key to this is that it has to be believable. Trump would have to set it up by starting to talk about the concentration camps, get all the news stations talking about it and get everybody worked up, so when he says that to Xi it'll be true. Then you let that sit for 5-10 years until it becomes a new normal and people forget the whole controversy, and a new president comes in and says "Look, we know you have a complicated relationship with North Korea, but we can't let them have their citizens starve in the streets..." and you start the process all over again. That way you'll never harm the relationship with China too badly, but over time you make process. It's sort of like the betaization process you talk about, you just have to make it so slow that they don't realize it's changing. The second way is pretty much the same as the first way, just all at once. You give the same speech to China, except you say China needs to get rid of the Kims and replace them with somebody who will turn the country into China jr., or else we'll go in and reunify Korea under the South Korean government. The only reason this failed in the 50's is because the Chinese backed the Koreans, but while they do like having them there they would be unlikely to risk their new economic powerhouse status over it. But again they have to believe you'll really do it, which is tough as most people who are smart enough and competent enough to become president are too risk-averse to follow through. This is the one advantage of having a lunatic like Trump as President, as he's stupid enough that he'd actually do it without understanding the consequences, which would scare the crap out of Xi. If somebody like Obama or Clinton tried it he'd know they wouldn't actually do it.
Caleb Jones 2017-04-19 18:03:50
Giving Japan nukes won’t change anything.Yes it will. It will extricate the USA from the majority of the problem.
Tony 2017-04-19 18:39:26
Sure, but you said the problem with South Korea is that it's too close to North Korea, and giving Japan nukes won't do anything to fix that.
Caleb Jones 2017-04-19 19:29:27
That is not what I said. Re-read the article slowly. I said the problem is a A) a madman with nukes and B) S. Korea can pay the price for a stupid US President. You (more or less) can't fix problem A, but you can fix (or greatly alleviate) problem B, by America giving Japan nukes and exiting the situation (that was never any of our damn business to begin with).
Way_Of_Man 2017-04-19 23:50:49
It wouldn't shock me in the least if all of the current meetings involving N.K. between the other countries were discussing just exactly how to neutralize N.K. in the quickest way possible as to mitigate any retaliatory fallout on S.K. I agree with you that it's still a problem, but I don't know that it's a problem that a joint military strike between China, the US and Japan wouldn't be able to absolve. The real big problem (as with almost all dictator removals) is what to do in the aftermath. N.K. is a particularly tricky duck, because you have tens of millions of people who now need a new government. Most of these people are totally brainwashed and don't have any kind of skill sets that they can just go elsewhere and be useful. Now you just have bunch more hungry mouths to feed in a populace that has very little idea of how the current modern day world actually works.
Caleb Jones 2017-04-20 12:29:13
I agree with you that it’s still a problem, but I don’t know that it’s a problem that a joint military strike between China, the US and Japan wouldn’t be able to absolve.Going to war against N. Korea is not a solution. If Japan or China wish to do that, fine, but not us.
The real big problem (as with almost all dictator removals) is what to do in the aftermath.Correct, and if we followed your solution and were "successful," it would be yet another mess everyone would look to us (the USA) to fix. No thanks.
Paul Murray 2017-04-22 00:06:31
Isn't the USA still technically at war with NK? Solution 1 is to simply ignore the problem. Politely explain to Kim Jung Un that if NK deploys biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons anywhere outside its own borders then the USA will turn his country into glass, and just ignore it from then on. No diplomatic contact, no nothing. If they want to talk to the outside world, they can talk to China. The only reason the US hasn't adopted solution 1 is that rattling the sabre at NK is a great way for the president du jour to look hawkish. Just leave 'em the fuck alone.
Caleb Jones 2017-04-22 11:59:53
Isn’t the USA still technically at war with NK?Yes. And we should not be.
Solution 1 is to simply ignore the problem.I agree, but that's even less likely than my solution. Telling US politicians to "do nothing" or "just leave them alone" is like speaking in Swahili to an Eskimo.
Politely explain to Kim Jung Un that if NK deploys biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons anywhere outside its own borders then the USA will turn his country into glass, and just ignore it from then on.That's not doing nothing. If N. Korea attacks S. Korea it's not our problem. We should not be the world's policeman. That's not my job as a US taxpayer.
Jeremy 2017-04-25 09:18:12
Why dont we withdraw our troops from South Korea and make sure they have nukes. They have been taking advantage of us economically for 50 years and their people dont want us there. Screw those Koreans. They need to be a unified country and they can decide what kind of Korea they want as the differences are much more clear than they were 60 years ago. I personally think nothing happens after we do it as the South isnt going to start a war to hurt its economy and the North isnt going to invade and fight a war because they would not win. We can spend the money now being wasted in Korea on the border wall with Mexico and undercover ops in the USA getting the ISIS folks out of here.
Throughfare 2017-05-15 08:35:36
Hmmm. There's a more basic issue with Korea than geopolitical stuff. Are you familiar with the real Korean culture? (As it exists in Korea as opposed to Korean expats in the USA.) IME Koreans get really worked up about stuff, and there are crazy-violent protests. I had a student from Korea who went home for a year to take some courses & reconnect with his family. He managed to get beat up badly one day when he got trapped in a protest put on by students and union members, who were attacking the police and getting clubbed by the police! The fights guys get into in nightclubs in Korea are legendary too. And don't get me started about the legendary fights I've seen Korean wives and girlfriends get into with their BFs and hubbies. The climate is also a bit challenging if you're looking for a nice-weather place to move to. Even South Korea gets pretty significant snow in the winter, at least in the hills. IME Korea is a nice place to visit (especially for the food) but you wouldn't want to live there, even if there were no threat of war.
Caleb Jones 2017-05-15 10:19:20
Oh yes. Koreans are the most violently angry race of all Asians, by far, even more than Philipinos. I used to work with two Korean managers at a company, and they would fucking SCREAM at each other and actually throw furniture at each other, in the office, right in front of everyone, like it was perfectly normal. I've seen the bf/gf fights too. Insane stuff.